Saturday, January 22, 2011

10 things I learned while in India

Hello readers,

I know I deserve to be punished for taking this long to post my final thoughts and tips on my trip to Northern India. I will say that my flight was delayed almost 30 hours on my way, and I ended up spending last week recovering from a sore throat and horrible cough. Also, this post took me 5 hours to post, I struggled to get pictures loaded and have now decided to just share a link with pics. Below I have provided my observations on various categories from transportation to food to everyday living!
Enjoy my story and adventures...

1. Transportation - Do not understatement the seat capacity of any vehicle in India. During my time in India I saw 6 people on a rickshaw which is suppose to seat 2 comfortably, a scooter with a family of four (mom dad and 2 toddlers) and 12 people rammed in a 5 seater SUV. Space is no constraint! Popular forms of travelling are by train, three wheeler, tempo tourist van, rickshaw, scooter, jeep, motorcycle, and smaller automobiles like the maruti or Toyota.

2. Food - It doesn't get any more fresh than India. With rolling blackouts no-one has a Costco mentality here (buying in bulk and storing), instead you buy groceries for what you plan to make that day. With fresh ingredients and spices the dishes here ignite your tastebuds. When one visits India they must go to a haveli, dhaba, hakka restaurant. Foods to try would be parontay (a bread stuffed with vegetables like potatoes and cauliflower), pakora all kinds (battered fried foods from cheese to onions to potatoes), chennay putura (white beans and a fried bread), saag and mukhee roti ( this is a spinach mix with a dry corn bread) tandoor da chicken with tandoori masala, garlic nans, the chai (tea, preferably ginger tea) and coffee( I am not a caffeine drinker but the coffee tastes like hot chocolate here). In terms of sweets try warm gulab jamen, jalebis (a fried sugar), Pertha from Agra (which is quite famous), ghor, and barfi. I have a big sweet tooth! When it comes to fruit try kiwi, bananas (sweeter in India I found) kichu, and guava with indian masala on top.

3. Shopping - I posted about my shopping experience earlier. The service is unbeatable. When you enter the store you get assigned your personal shopper (basically anyone that is free), the personal shopper has an assistant that brings out each item that the personal shopper shows you, and also orders food and drinks so you never have to leave the store. Although the service and experience felt quite grand, after a while I did miss not having to speak to someone and enjoying my shopping on my own. I mean shopping can be a great retail therapy and when someone's talking to you the whole time and convincing you to purchase items it no longer can be a relaxing experience like it can at times be in the West. So ya at one point I wanted to grab the clothes and look through them myself so it would be a lot quicker, but they did not approve and wanted me to have a tea in hand relaxed while they slowly brought out each item.

4. Weather - Okay after spending time with the locals here it is clear the time I went to Northern India was not the best time to go. It was absolutely freezing the 2 weeks I was in India. Although it was around 5-10 degrees with NO CENTRAL HEATING and homes made out of cement and marble it was very cold. I slept with 4-5 blankets each night and the heaters felt very shady, like they were going to burst into flames so I tried to avoid. For those reading this post and considering going to India the best months to go are October, November, February, and March. December and January are quite cold at 5-15 degrees, and April - September are very warm - at 30-40 degrees. While I was in India in December I wore tights and full tank tops underneath all my clothes, and I came to the conclusion why back in the early 1900s women wore such large undergarments. It came to me that there was no central heating then so they had no choice but to wear their tank tops and long Johns underneath their corsets and full skirts. It was not that woman were more primp and proper and were more covered up during that decade - THEY HAD NO FRIGGIN CHOICE. Sheesh I mean the 2 weeks I was in India I felt like a woman from the early 1900s.

5. Traffic - So it was clear my life flashed by me EVERYTIME I got into a vehicle in India. I would describe India driving like a videogame, no traffic rules, cars coming in from every direction, and obstacles constantly in your way from cows to pedestrians. The "Honk" seemed to be the indication for everything from "left/right turns" to "move out of the way". Most cities did not follow the traffic signs/lights but the "honk" seemed to be the universal language on the road. At night the "high beam" seemed to be the language if you wanted someone to "move out of the way", they called it the "dipper".

6. Telecommunications - Everyone has a cell phone in India (even the rickshaw drivers). My husband and I purchased a cell phone for the 2 weeks we were in India and it cost 400 Rupees which is like $10CDN. For 2 full weeks we used this cell phone across all the cities we travelled to in India, we called our family and friends in Canada everyday and did not go a penny over. I believe a 1 minute Long Distance Call to Canada with less than a Rupee, which just seemed EXTREMELY cheap to me. So now I understand how ever moe joe has a cell phone, but may not have enough food on their table - it is insane. Text messages are also super cheap as well!

7. Smell/pollution- There is definitely a unique smell to India, I can't say much on this as my smell sense is VERY weak. However, Bobby told me to add this as he found the smell quite interesting (that's all we will say on that). The pollution is quite rough in some of the biggest cities in India, and it was clear when my boogers turned BLACK. Yes that's how badly the hairs in your nose are working to get rid of the dirt in the air in India, because my nose was full of black boogers lol. The countryside was a lot nicer with fields of fruit and vegetables and greens - not as much pollution there.

8. Poverty- I can't even begin to describe the poverty in this country, as the rich get richer it truly appears that the poor seem to get poorer. Everywhere you go you see children roaming the streets alone trying to hustle to make money. Where were these children coming from? Where were their families? (it felt very much like Slumdog millionaire - which scares me). There was a lot of hustling in India, even in the towns you would have groups of poverty stricken families appear infront of homes they knew were having wedding functions or celebrations and would sing to get money. These hustlers would speak to local store owners and figure out if any of the homes in the area had people from out of town or had a function coming up so they could come to their doors and beg for money to give blessings in return. It was quite depressing to see it all infront of you, knowing that there was nothing that could be done to easily make a difference.

9. Bribery works- Anything in India can be covered up, completed, or given if you just name the right price. It is ridiculous that you can pay off the cops in the event you break a traffic rule, or you want to get away with a certain task, or you want to get something done that is not legal. There are wonderful people in this country but I can't help but think there's a lot more people that can be persuaded by money very easily. I also found it very strange that people were so afraid of the cops, not because they were the lawmakers and they respected them, but because if they don't like something you are doing or want to make money they could throw you in jail or get you to fork out thousands of Rupees for doing NOTHING.

10. India knows how to live. I think about Toronto during the week you get up eat-work-sleep repeat until the weekend where you try to cram in all your chores and errands and than Sunday comes around where you prepare to eat work sleep for another 5 days. I feel like I am going to wake up and be 40 in a matter of days that's how quickly time flies at home. India people work in their farms, businesses by 10 to noon are home by 5-6 enjoy freshly cooked meals, spend time with their neighbours, family and friends in the local community (very small town feel which is weird for a country with a billion in population) and have a slow Caribbean attitude. Its not go-go-go its relax, enjoy, and it will get done! We may have clean streets and green grass but there living a 100 years more than us. My two weeks here felt like 2 months in a great way. I was living! I will put a disclaimer on this for those in India working for Multinational companies unfortunately there lifestyles are VERY similar to the West. I think any affiliation with the West and you end up also having to adapt to the go-go-go lifestyle.

Overall what did I think of India? It feels so raw exploring a developing nation, almost like you can do anything and theres no rules and consequences. It was quite a weird feeling. The cooking felt authentic, the shopping felt like royalty, and the sights felt so natural and historic.
Would I go back? HELL YA! When? Time will tell.

Pictures, Pictures, and more PICTURES - For some reason blogger has not been working correctly (perhaps my pics are too large) but instead of pasting into the post I have included a link.!157&authkey=13Hpa6syJeo%24
My story home
In terms of how I booked my flight to India, I used a travel agent and booked a direct flight to Delhi via AIR INDIA. Anyone considering flying AIR INDIA I would strongly suggest STAYING AWAY. On our way back home we had a 30 hour delay at Delhi Airport with NO COMMUNICATION as to why our flight was delayed. All of the people of my flight back caused a riot at the Terminal as NOONE would give us answers as to why our flight was so delayed. All they had to do was give us a reason and we would have sat down and waited, but instead there was no management, no transparency, and no idea when we would get home. After 30 hours of backpain from waiting at the Airport (no hotel accomodations), I had a 14 hour flight home. IT WAS BRUTAL.


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